Evoking a Displaced Homeland: the ‘Poetic Memoir’ of Andrzej Chciuk
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This article looks at some poems by Polish Australian writer Andrzej Chciuk (1920-1978). Chciuk migrated to Australia from France in 1951, having escaped Nazi-occupied Poland as a twenty-year-old in 1940. In Australia he worked as a schoolteacher in Melbourne while continuing to write poetry and fiction in Polish. His work was published in prestigious Polish emigré outlets like the Paris-based journal Kultura and in Australia with sponsorship from the Polish migrant community; to date no English translations of it have appeared. My article focuses on a sequence of poems in his 1961 Pamiętnik poetycki (Poetic Memoir) called ‘Tamta Ziemia’ (That Other Land), about the cities and towns of Chciuk’s childhood: Lwów, Borysław and his hometown of Drohobycz. When the author was growing up these towns were in eastern Poland; by the time of his writing, in the 1950s, however, they had become part of Soviet Ukraine, and were thus doubly removed from his life in Australia. He wrote as a displaced person whose childhood home had itself been displaced. Hence the powerful note of longing that pervades his ‘poetic memoir’. Through a reading of some passages in my English translation, I hope to convey something of Chciuk’s lively poetic voice, and to show that he deserves admission to discussions of twentieth-century transnational Australian literature.